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5 Things Every Parent Needs To Know Before Choosing MUSIC LESSONS

Congratulations! Are you brand new to Music Lessons? You are making an important decision, that could affect your or your child for a lifetime. These guidelines will help you to have a successful, rewarding experience learning an instrument. These are practical tips that we have discovered from years of teaching and our experiences with teaching hundreds of students each year.

1. How Young Is Too Young – Starting At The Right Age

Adults can start any instrument at any time. Their success is based on how willing an adult is to commit to practicing. We teach many beginner students in their 60’s and 70’s.
For children, starting at the right age is a key element to the success of their lessons. Music lessons have evolved since todays’ parents were children.

Some people will tell you “the sooner the better” but this attitude can actually backfire and be a negative. If a child is put into private lessons too soon, before they can read and have an extended attention span, they may feel overwhelmed and frustrated and want to stop lessons. This has then turned music into a non-social, isolating activity, where all of the pressure is solely on that one student, who is too young for this experience. It’s very difficult for a parent or a teacher to open the music lesson ‘door’ again if that happens. The last thing you want to do is turn a child off of music just because they had one unpleasant experience which could have been prevented.

Often, if a preschool or kinder-aged child enrolls in an age-appropriate music class, then music lessons becomes a joyful, success-based experience. This child is still learning the eye-hand coordination and music reading skills they would get in a private lesson, but in a setting they love, and at a pace they can process. These children tend to continue with music lessons much longer than the child who is put into a solitary lesson situation too young. Then, when they get to private lessons, their foundations are solid and often progress can be much faster. Children who are older than the suggested earliest starting age usually do very well. 

The following are guidelines we have found to be successful in determining how young a child can start taking music lessons.

Piano / Keyboard Lessons

At our school, we begin the piano journey as young as age 3, in our Preschool Music Classes (ages 3-4). These children then are promoted to our Mini Piano Plus classes (ages 4-5) where piano lessons focuses on music reading skills and more hand and finger coordination. Many of our students graduate then to Superstar Musicians (ages 5-6), which continues piano lessons, alongside ukulele lessons, plus the cool bonus of our in-house drum kit. At the upper age of 5 and 6 years old, Piano Team is a semi-private class that children love, because of the combination of private lessons with collaborative actives with 1-2 other classmates. Again, music is a social activity and children love being motivated by their peers as well as their teachers. This works well to keep children excited about the piano for years to come.

Private Piano Lessons begins typically at age 6 , although some children begin at the upper end of age 5. What we are looking for is a longer attention span, more refined coordination, being able to read instructions on home assignment sheets and workbooks, an awareness of right hand verses left hand, an ability to self-guide home practice, and the ability to retain materials from lesson to lesson. This is why age 6 typically works better, and why our Mini Piano Plus and Superstar Musician classes work so well to prepare the 5 year old for a happy, continuing piano experience, with no frustration or battles on the homefront.

Voice Lessons

10 years old is recommended as the youngest age for private vocal lessons. Due to the physical nature of voice lessons (proper breathing techniques, development of the vocal chords and lung capacity), the younger body is generally not yet ready for the rigors of vocal technique. For children younger than 10, we have a Glee Singers Class (ages 7-9) and a super fun Mini Singers Class (ages 5-6) that teaches younger voice students how to use their voices properly, in a fun, engaging environment.

Guitar / Ukulele Lessons

At our school, we begin the guitar / ukulele journey as young as 3, in our Preschool Music Classes (ages 3-4). Even a small, child-sized guitar is cumbersome for a young child, so we promote the ukulele first, as it fits nicely into smaller hands, and is much easier to play, and it’s not painful to press the strings into the fretboard. These students then move up to our Kids Ukulele Band Level 1 or Superstar Musicians (ages 5-6), which continues the ukulele focus, plus the cool bonus of our in-house drum kit. At the upper age of 5 and 6 years old, Guitar Team is a semi-private class that children love, because of the combination of private lessons with collaborative actives with 1-2 other classmates. Again, music is a social activity and children love being motivated by their peers as well as their teachers. This works well to keep children excited about the guitar and ukulele for years to come. 
Private Guitar or Ukulele Lessons typically begin at age 6 , although some children begin at the upper end of age 5. What we are looking for is a longer attention span, more refined coordination, being able to read instructions on home assignment sheets and workbooks, an awareness of right hand verses left hand, an ability to self-guide home practice, and the ability to retain materials from lesson to lesson. This is why age 6 typically works better, and why our Kids’ Ukulele Band Level 1 and Superstar Musician classes work so well to prepare the 5 year old for a happy, continuing guitar experience, with no frustration or battles on the homefront.

Flute, Clarinet & Saxophone Lessons

Due to lung capacity (and in the case of the saxophone the weight and size of the instrument), we recommend that most woodwind beginners are 9 and older. Flute players may begin as young as age 6, with the Nuvo flute. Ask us about this fun starter flute!

Violin Lessons

Private Violin Lessons begin typically at age 6 , although some children begin at the upper end of age 5. Some schools will start children as young as 3, but experience has shown us the most productive learning, with minimal frustration occurs when the beginner is 6 or older. Our 6-9 year old beginners also have the option to join our Violin Teams. Violin Teams is a semi-private class that children love, because of the combination of private lessons with collaborative actives with 1-2 other classmates. Again, music is a social activity and children love being motivated by their peers as well as their teachers. This works well to keep children excited about the violin for years to come. What we are looking for is a longer attention span, more refined coordination, being able to read instructions on home assignment sheets and workbooks, an ability to self-guide home practice, and the ability to retain materials from lesson to lesson. This is why age 6 typically works better, and why our Violin Teams also is an excellent motivator. Children younger than 6 enroll in our Superstars classes, which covers how to read music, and the ukulele fretboard, which is a good introduction to how the frets on a violin work.

2. What to look for in quality Private Lessons.

Group classes work well for preschool music programs, and theory lessons. However, when actually learning how to play an instrument, private lessons are far superior since in private lessons it is hard to miss anything, and each student can learn at their own pace. This means the teacher does not have to teach a class at a middle of the road level, but has the time and focus to work on the individual student’s strengths and weaknesses. For that lesson period, the student is the primary focus of the teacher. The teachers also enjoy this as they do not have to divide their attention between 5 – 10 students at a time and can help the student be the best they can be.

3. Take Lessons In A Professional Teaching Environment

Learning music is not just a matter of having a qualified teacher, but also having an environment that is focused on music education. In a professional school environment a student cannot be distracted by TV, pets, ringing phones, siblings or anything else. With only 1/2 to one hour of lesson time per week, a professional school environment can produce better results since the only focus at that time is learning music. Students also take pride in coming to a dedicated school each week, and are motivated by hearing peers who are at different levels and by being exposed to a variety of musical instruments. In a music school, the lessons are not just a hobby or sideline for the teacher but a profession, and a responsibility which is taken very seriously.

4. Practicing Made Easier and More Effective

Adults can start any instrument at any time. Their success is based on how willing an adult is to commit to practicing. We teach many beginner students in their 60’s and 70’s.

Time

The time you put into acquiring a new skill is proportional to how quickly you will progress. This is also true when you participate in sports or learn a new language. Music Lessons are no different. Set the same time every day to practice so it becomes part of a routine or habit. This works particularly well for children. Generally the earlier in the day the practicing can occur, the less reminding is required by parents to get the child to practice. A

Repetition with Mindfulness – How We Get Our Students There

Music student receives a personalized guided action plan for home practice from heir teacher each week. We encourage at least 5 days a week of practice, which can be simply journaled at the bottom of the page with checkmarks or time recorded. Using the teacher tips saves time, as the student engages in time-saving practice, rather than just mindless repetition. Our teachers are effectively creating self-coaches over time, so that these students know the best strategies to use whenever they begin new music. For beginners, we try a different approach. For a young child 20 or 30 minutes seems like an eternity. Instead of setting a time frame, we use repetition. For example, practice this piece 4 times every day, and this scale or pattern 5 times a day. The child then does not pay attention to the amount of time they are practicing their instrument, but knows if they are on repetition number 3 they are almost finished. As their assignment gains sophistication over the coming months, they are spending more time at their instrument and not even noticing. That’s mindfulness! Amazing!

Rewarding Consistency and Dedication

This works very well for both children and adult students. Some adults reward themselves with a cappuccino after a successful week of practicing. Parents can encourage children to practice by granting them occasional rewards for successful practicing. In our school we reward our students for a successful week of practicing with stars and stickers on their work, practice pockets, medals, gold pins, certificates personal postcards and more. Praise tends to be the most coveted award – there just is no substitute for a pat on the back for a job well done. Sometimes we all have a week with little practicing, and in that case there is always next week.

5. Make sure your teacher is using Recognized, Professional Teaching Materials

There are some excellent materials developed by professional music educators who have put in decades of research into how to best teach music literacy. Quality materials also feature carefully-sequenced coordination, and an experienced educator knows how to choose this wisely, at the right time for each student. Choose schools and teachers who know the best books on the market. Wisely chosen attractive-sounding materials can make all the difference in fostering students’ confidence and success. We also research books that are made for students in a variety of situations. For example in piano, there are books for very young beginners, and books for adult students that have never played before. There are books that can start you at a level you are comfortable with. These materials have been researched and are continually upgraded and improved to make learning easier. These materials ensure that no important part of learning the instrument can inadvertently be left out. If you ever have to move to a different part of the country, qualified teachers and institutions will recognize the materials and be able to smoothly continue from where the previous teacher left off.

Have Fun!

Music should be something that you enjoy for a lifetime. So, try not to put unrealistic expectations on yourself or your children to learn too quickly. Everyone learns at a different pace and the key is to be able to grow while enjoying the journey.
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